Clichés

William Shakespeare

Griselda disappeared a couple of months ago.

Before setting off for subconscious terrain, she left a long letter on my desktop, beside a file of the novella I was writing, accusing me of suffering from a “Plague of clichés.”

I didn’t scoff, as I might have if anyone else had said it. Her list of grievances was too long, and too pointed. All I could do was sigh and groan.

“Perhaps,” she concluded, “you should take that statue of Shakespeare you’ve had since childhood, and move it from the bookshelf to your desk for inspiration….”

Which is exactly what I did.

So far, he hasn’t said a word. Nor has he budged. I turn the desk light on periodically to see if his expression has changed, but it hasn’t. And, if the light bothers him, I can’t tell. He doesn’t squint, and he doesn’t complain. Not even about my clumsy drafts.

***

In the past couple of months, I have read two novels in which he plays a significant role. Both use similar construction and literary devices.

I enjoyed reading them, but, when I finished, I was struck by how many other books I have read in the past year in which the Bard plays no role, but the construction and devices do—the same ones in my work that triggered Griselda’s departure.

And so, I am left with a silent Bard, too many versions of a manuscript driven by stale contrivances, too much time to rue over them, and a reluctance to let them go.

Shall I be like Donatello, before his statue of the prophet, Habakkuk, and scream at my silent icon, “Speak, damn you, speak!” Hoping, praying for instruction? Or shall I regard the lack of it as trust? The Bard’s way of saying, “You can do this. Think….”

Think, he says…. Of folders nested within folders, unused titles, inscriptions, settings, characters, words…overused construction and devices…and Griselda’s exasperated notes….

A plague of clichés.

Maybe that’s where I start.

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Globs and Blobs

Does anyone else’s eye hurt?

I hate talking about my writing. I really hate writing synopses, mostly because I’m lousy at it…but there’s a fog outside that seems to be rising out of mounds of melting snow. Does that seem right?

A few days ago I tried a gluten free chocolate version of a snack cake that was shaped like a Twinkie. There were six in the box. Now there are only two. I won’t buy them again.

But about synopses…. I did finish my latest project, which is too long for some markets and too short for others, and I honestly don’t know what to say about it other than that it’s done and it has these characters in it and I’m already thinking about a short story involving a character who never appears in the book(ish) but definitely comes from it and….

I swear, the dark chocolate sea salt caramels in the container I bought yesterday are thinner than the ones in the last container.

(Wiping eye.)

Which reminds me this is the day I usually clean the house, but I won’t because my thumb cracked open last night…so, what was I saying?

Oh, right…. I never have a problem talking about other people’s writing, distilling their work into two sentences, or a page, or three, but my own becomes mounds of floating blobs in aqua liquid, spawning new mounds after it’s finished, so it’s really not unlike the lava lamp my dad bought me in 1966 for no other reason than he thought it was cool and I’d like it.

Which I did.

But I really don’t understand how divine a substance as chocolate can be turned into something awful, like the organic bar I sampled this morning, so not even close to the faux Twinkies. Now they are brilliant…

…unlike the synopsis scrambling my brain.

Maybe I can send a lava lamp instead.

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Nightmare

“The Abyss of Hell” (Botticelli)

You’re at a restaurant for dinner and order salmon, with lemon butter sauce on the side, and lightly steamed vegetables. The waiter brings you a plate of roast beef and mashed potatoes, slathered with gravy,. A few limp string beans peek out from under the white and brown mush.

You say, “This isn’t what I ordered.

The waiter says, “You wanted the salmon.”

“That’s right, with lemon butter on the side, vegetables lightly steamed.”

“And that’s what you got.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Yes, you did.”

“Are you crazy? You gave me meat.”

“Where? Where do you see meat?’

“On the plate,” you point. “There.”

“That’s not meat. It’s fish.”

“What? Get the manager.”

The waiter shrugs and leaves. A few minutes later, he comes back with the manager.

She says, “Is something wrong?”

“Yes,” you say. “I ordered salmon, sauce on the side, with lightly steamed vegetables, and your waiter brought me this.”

The manager looks at the waiter, then at you. “So what’s the problem?”

You growl, “This isn’t salmon.”

“Yes it is.”

“Smell it,” you lift the plate, “and tell me if it smells like salmon.”

The manager leans over. Sniffs. “Seems fishy to me.”

“Seriously?”

The manager sighs, “how about if we bring you something else?”

“Fine.” You think for a minute. Then, suddenly, feeling very clever, you say, “Bring me the roast beef.”

“With mashed potatoes and gravy?”

“Yes. And string beans, well done.”

“Very good.” The manager smiles, and both she and the waiter disappear.

Twenty minutes go by. A good sign, you think. They’re making your meal to order. You’re staring to feel better…

…until the waiter reappears, proclaiming, “Beef!!” and sets the saddest, slimiest salad you have ever seen in front of you.

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